-- By Jonathan Margalit

You know good habits are key to a healthy lifestyle, but what does it really mean? Habits are routines you repeat without thinking. You use different habits throughout the day, such as brushing your teeth, jumping in the shower before work, and looking both ways before you pull into traffic. You've done them for a long time, they become habits and you don't give them a lot of consideration as they happen automatically.

Set Achievable Goals

Habits can work both ways. The longer you repeat bad habits like staying up too late, smoking, eating poorly, or neglecting regular exercise, the harder is to stop doing them. So, the key to developing healthy habits and routines is to slowly replace harmful habits with good ones.

Set goals you can achieve, and develop habits that allow you to meet your targets. By setting achievable goals and developing routines that move you forward every day, you begin an upward cycle of self-esteem and sense of achievement. Your confidence grows as you achieve your goals, further encouraging you to stick to your routines because you know you will get the desired results.

Over time, as you achieve goals on a consistent basis, and work daily on improving your habits, eventually they become part of you. You do them without thinking as they begin to define your lifestyle. With that in mind, here are some specific good habits that will help you reach your goals.

Eating Habits

Eating right can be a challenge because there are many different opinions on nutrition, and some of them conflict. Here are some healthy eating options:

  • Avoid processed food - Stick with real food like vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts and low-fat dairy.

  • Take notes - Write down what you eat in a food journal.

  • Stay in balance - Eat a balance of 45 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent proteins and 35 percent good fats.

  • Like mom said, eat your vegetables - Increase the amount of healthy vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, and tomatoes.

  • Stay in the middle - Avoid getting extra hungry or eating too much.

Exercise Habits

Try out these exercise habits to up your fitness game:

  • Commit to an exercise buddy - It's easier to stick to your good habits if you have a comrade in arms.

  • Flip the script - Participate in a variety of activities you enjoy, whether it's walking, running, aerobics, or tennis.

  • Reframe exercise - Think of exercise as a jolt of energy that gets your blood flowing.

  • Exercise in the morning - Getting your exercise done first thing eliminates excuses that get in the way later in the day.

  • Track your progress - You know you are on the right track when you sleep better, think more clearly, have a lower resting heart rate and feel stronger.

  • Indulge occasionally - Giving yourself a reward now and then will help you stick to your routines.

Sometimes we avoid changing habits because doing so is too difficult and potential results are too far in the future. The trick is to take baby steps, gradually changing your habits one at a time until they begin to accelerate. You reach a tipping point. As you make better choices and act on various aspects of your life, it is easier to reach your goals. Your good habits will begin to complement and support each other, creating a multiplier effect that gives you a quantum leap in achievement, satisfaction and confidence.

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